Personal Log  #652

December 30, 2013  -  January 5, 2014

Last Updated: Weds. 3/05/2014

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Extreme Cold.  There are quite a few posts recently discussing the extreme cold.  These are different from the past though.  There are quite a number of owner who have experienced Winter with more than one generation of Prius.  Having that basis of comparison available was rare in the past.  For the online community, it's becoming common.  That's great.  With the technology in Prius so well established, understanding what a generational upgrade brings is new subject matter.  The same is true for handheld devices, such as phones & tablets.  People simply never paid attention to detail like that in the past.  Now, they they seek out the information.  Seeing who is yet another sign confirming deep mainstream penetration.  There's excitement from new forum members with very little technical or automotive background.  I joined in the active discussion with:  I've owned all 3 generations over the past 13 years.  Even the 2010 couldn't compete with what I experienced today with my 2012 Prius PHV.  The high temperature was under 0°F.  Despite the extreme cold, which included spending over 3 hours parked in a shopping lot, the drive back and forth to home with a side-stop along the way (23.5 miles total) resulted in an average of 49 MPG.  That's amazing for such nasty conditions.  Being able to plug-in is great, even when the engine runs to provide heat.  Today was a perfect example of how well thought out the system is.  Summer is much nicer.  Engine warm-up is rapid and the A/C runs using electricity.  MPG is double as a result.  But with a lower temperature forecast of -26°F tonight, the warm season is a long way off for me.  Blah!


Mass Appeal.  2014 brings a repositioning for Volt.  There's nothing left to prove anymore.  Plenty of real-world data is available at this point shows what owners wanted to convey about efficiency & reliability while also confirming plug-in supporter concerns about purchase priorities.  Now that we're seeing leases expire and talk of the second generation dominate discussions.  The early stage is over.  Volt is fading into the mix with a variety of other plug-in offerings... where it should have been from the very beginning.  The superiority arguments have fizzled into the past.  Market awareness has finally become apparent.  Hope that the draw to electric-drive will change buyer preference is gone.  Appealing to the masses, with they priorities they hold, has been accepted.  It was a wild journey... so many pointless fights... all leading back to where it started in the first place.  Some have to learn for themselves, regardless of how painful of an experience it could be.  Oh well.  It comes down to the traits Prius has focused on all along.  They were very similar to other popular sellers Toyota offered.  Enthusiasts for GM found that distasteful.  The thought of endorsing vehicles like Camry & Corolla was a horrible thought.  But in the end, that's what is still needed.  That's what the masses purchase.  That's what they find appealing.  Volt taking on aspects not "performance" oriented was reason for all those online assaults.  What a waste.  Oh well.  The damage is done.


Categories.  Once established, they are extremely difficult to change.  They become a foundational part of thinking, a mindset without perspective.  That's why comments like this are such a challenge to address: "Luxury is not something that should be "affordable" or easily acquired.  Those who want and have the means to purchase a true luxury vehicle will pay the price.  If you can't afford it, don't buy it."  Prius directly contradicts that category.  It is an affordable vehicle that's smooth & quiet.  Why must we pay more?  It's the point of progress to continue to offer improvements?  That simply pushes the "luxury" choice to expand into new territory, exploring new creature-comforts and drive-refinements.  However, Prius is already doing that.  Mine offers LED lighting, HUD instruments, and dynamic-cruise with collision-detection.  To the person making who I quoted, that shouldn't be.  A vehicle aimed directly at mainstream consumers shouldn't provide such a choice.  Those features should be limited to the elite.  To that, I say too bad.  Change happens.  By the way, the squirters for my headlights do a fantastic job of washing away the Winter mess of sand & salt.  The convenience of pushing a button to clean while I drive is fantastic.


Diesel Denial.  It's absolutely hysterical when an article is published in favor of diesel intentionally excludes Toyota hybrids.  You have to shake your head in disbelief.  How can they ignore such an obvious competitor?  Needless to say, one of my friends posted a comment about that on the website, using the counts I provided.  It quickly disappeared.  Deleting data is remarkable.  They declare victory by posting only the numbers showing their favor.  How is that appropriate?  Whatever the case, we know the true story.  No matter what story they spin, it can't totally conceal what's going on.  We know they post controversial articles to draw audiences too.  Making money from such actions is rather desperate.  But some keep doing it anyway.  It's a nice confirmation that hybrids are winning the war too.  Anywho, this was my response to that:  Excluding Toyota hybrids is quite amusing.  Talking about denial.  Geez!  Using their same criteria, by adding Toyota & Lexus like they did for VW & Audi, with counts through November...  Prius - 135,291;  Prius C - 39,169;  Camry - 41,722;  Prius V - 32,879;  Avalon - 14,988;  ES - 14,856;  CT200h - 13,284;  Prius PHV - 11,169;  RX400h/450h - 10,154;  Highlander - 4,798;  GS450h - 478;  LS600h - 109;  HS250h - 5;  ...the total comes to 318,902.  More popular.  No.


On Par.  Sales results were released today.  2013 ended up being an equalizing year.  Leaf & Tesla plug-ins ended up selling just as well as Volt.  Purchase preference for the "vastly superior" didn't happen as hoped.  There is now confirmation of what some of us had been saying all along, including prior to rollout over 3 years ago.  Thank goodness that nonsense is over.  The rhetoric slowed acceptance and worked against what some of us had been reaching out for in the first place, an ally... because in the end, it always comes down to competing directly with traditional vehicles.  Fortunately, as enough time passes, even dealing with shortcomings becomes easier.  Those who unrealistic expectations pretty much vanish.  We saw that with the demise of Two-Mode.  That was a disaster from the beginning, a series of poor business decisions aimed at far too small of a market.  Volt suffered from the same problem.  Enthusiasts didn't understand how complex the situation was or how long it would actually take.  They disregarded warnings and focused on hype factors.  What a mess.  But now in the 4th year of sales, all doubt has been eliminated.  Like it or not, there's recognition of mainstream-consumer purchase-priorities.  The chance of a birdie is long gone and course is clear.  No more arguing.  Yeah!


Repeated.  "If GM built a $75,000 Super-size EREV truck, it would have been just as successful as their overpriced Super-size hybrid trucks were..."  It's quite a feeling to read former foes to now be saying what you said all along.  It's too bad history had to repeat.  Rather than learning from the initial effort, they wanted to see if what would happen.  I recognized the pattern early on.  But that was mostly due to having blogged heavily.  They didn't want to believe the same mistake could be made again.  They now see it though: "Lutz was spouting this exact same BS when they decided to build the 2-mode pickups instead of a Prius fighter.   Look where that got them.  Tojo sold a MILLION Prii and the 2-mode sank without a ripple.  I almost got to the point where I was starting to respect Bob Lutz, but this stuff isn’t helping me.  He who ignores history is doomed to repeat it."  Ironically, there is little posted about how that gained knowledge applies to Volt.  Attention is still heavily focused on the largest vehicles.  And since Volt is a compact, rather than a midsize like Prius, it's difficult to get constructive discussion going.  Efforts to address high-volume profit-making vehicles still struggles for an audience.  As a result, that part of history could repeat again.  On the bright side, the online battles have ceased.  That's progress.


0 High Temp.  The new year has ushered in extreme cold.  When the high doesn't climb about zero (that's 0°F), don't expect pleasant driving experiences.  Thankfully, they aren't necessarily terrible either.  In fact, on the drive home from celebrating New Year's, we had to fire up the engine and wait about 4 minutes before driving.  The inside of the windshield had flash froze from us unloading the Prius, opening several doors right away and leaving them opened for an extended duration.  That real-world experiences firsthand, the kind of data I thrive on observing.  Anywho, on the drive home, I observed the coolant temperature climbing to a high of 188°F.  That was nice.  It made the interior quite comfortable.  People worry about the engine frequently being off or run at a low RPM causing a lack of heat.  The interplay of electricity & gas is too complex to explain.  The switching of energy flow is too frequent to envision.  The lack of understanding how traditional vehicles actually operates contributes to confusion.  Thankfully, the results are easy to see.  We were quite comfortable on the drive home.  I'm not really looking forward to these first two weeks of January.  They typically bring long periods of cold.  At least MPG will be nice and there's no worry whatsoever about engine starting.  The hybrid system handles those conditions well.


Insurance Rates.  A new and very strong ally in the fight against climate change has emerged.  Whether or not there is scientific evidence to support efforts to deal with the problem is becoming less and less important.  Insurance companies are no longer willing to take that risk.  Their claim data is telling a compelling story of high exposure due to our environment being altered.  They don't care what the cause is.  Business is hurt from all the damage.  As a result, insurance rates are going up.  That means, even if you are a obstinate denier, it will affect your wallet.  Less money in your pocket is a strong influence in opinion.  Change came about due to gas prices going up.  Cause didn't matter.  Filling the tank was more expensive.  The outcome was modified behavior.  How is this any different?  Choices will be altered as a result of having to pay more.


Saw This Coming.  When recently asked this question:  "When did you decide that electrification is the end game, rather than hydrogen or some other alternative fuel, in terms of fuel-efficient vehicles?"  It was no surprise to get this statement as an answer: "It was a gradual turning point.  I've always been receptive to new technology, but what annoyed me in 2005/2006 was all of this credit that Toyota was getting for the Prius.  Only the Japanese, only Toyota could do this.  General Motors had hybrids like that running in 1968.  We just never elected to produce them because it was a bad business proposition.  That was a mistake.  But I continually said, we need to do something to get GM’s reputation for advanced technology back."  The heavy emphasis on reputation and the lack of actually delivering something competitive was quite predictable.  With the third-year sales results for Volt about to revealed, we saw this coming.  Remember how the plan was to deliver a hydrogen vehicle to consumers by 2010, that hybrids were just a "stop-gap" solution?  He was responsible for that anti-hybrid campaign as well as for Volt itself.  He has since changed his mind.  He was wrong.  The only thing gradual about it was acknowledgement of the mistake.  As for the credit, that was due to sales.  Exceeding 100,000 per year in 2005 was a very big deal.  Meanwhile, GM's count was still a zero.  Why shouldn't an automaker be given praise for achieving mainstream volume?


Changing Times.  When one of the troublemakers starts to post things like this, it's a sign of change: "Enough range for 80% of the public in even the worst winter temps.  Right now the Volt drops to mid-20s in cold weather."  This particular Volt owner joined the big GM forum to combat me... since I was supposedly posting misleading information about Volt.  Ironically, he is now posting the vary same information I did back then.  But being hypocritical is progress, nonetheless.  So, I won't hold any grudge for needlessly being attacked.  I will point out the situation though.  That's how you prevent history from repeating.  Having learned from the experience is a good outcome.  There is finally clear acknowledge of the problem pointed out long ago.  The reduction of EV range caused by the heater is significant.  Stating the drop would be into the 20's resulted in a "troll" label.  You were considered an enemy of Volt.  Believing I was being constructive with the intent of keeping expectations realistic was the last thing they would ever consider... since it cast a distaste light on their vehicle of praise.  Thankfully, that is no more.  The impact of Winter is well known now.  That's really encouraging, a definite change for the better.


Original Insight.  This question was interesting: "Did Honda stop selling the original Insight in 2006?"  It came about as the result of a original owner throwing a fit from a comment made way back then but from the eyes of today.  That difference still doesn't get recognized by some.  They forget how much changes in over time.  This was my answer, hoping to keep the asker engaged and the owner at bay:  I don't readily recall.  My blogs have that detail somewhere.  Back then, things were different anyway.  It was more about proving the technology itself rather than focus on individual models.  People seem to forget how measures evolve over time.  The difference between ASSIST and FULL hybrids was a big deal through that first stage.  The beginning of the second was clearly marked by the start of 2006... when the tax-credits were introduced.  The purpose was to push acceptance deeper into the market.  Emission rating was always a challenge to get any attention at all. Honda wasn't even pushing it.  The manual transmission earned a ULEV and was the more desired model.  That put the CVT earning the SULEV rating in an awkward position.  Meanwhile, Toyota was racing ahead and Honda's focus was on making the hybrid Civic popular.  Carbon emissions started to gain attention then too, making the true green (smog reduction) an even greater challenge.  The end of 2006 brought the introduction of ULSD (Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel), which was suppose to help with that.  Instead, it came up short, not being as green as hoped... hence calling it "clean" diesel rather than keeping focus on actual emission ratings. MPG took a hit as a result too.  Long story short, these look backs at history are distorted at best.  You cannot judge a time quite unlike now using current standards.  Expectations were different then.  Gas was cheap.  The economy was thriving.  People were still buying monster-size vehicles.  New offerings weren't getting much serious attention.


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